The All-Star Game is over, but it sure was an exciting weekend. Can we say ‘sonic boom’ on Chara’s slap shot? What power! Anyway, the festivities are over and it’s time to get back to game action. Let’s take a look at some of the players who are still banged up.
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby has finally been given clearance to start light skating and light workouts, which is a great sign regarding the progress of his recovery. The key now will be to see if Crosby can remain symptom free with the increased physical demand. Sometimes the extra workload can cause symptoms to return, so Crsoby will have to remain symptom-free for at least a week before being cleared for contact. Crosby is probably closer to three weeks away instead of two; but if he is symptom free, he may be back a bit sooner.
Nobody wants to be in Marc Savard’s shoes at the moment. The Bruins center suffered his second concussion of the season last Monday, so the medical staff is being very cautious with his return. The problem with subsequent concussions is that they may lead to long-term issues. If a player returns too soon, he could be at serious risk of a permanent head injury, which may force an early retirement. In contact sports, there have been athletes who have been forced to stop playing because of concussion issues. Hopefully Savard does not join that group, but he may be forced to if he keeps taking hits to the head.
Concussions are fairly unpredictable, but a return from a wrist or hand injuries is easier to predict. Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk has been dealing with a broken wrist for a while. He has resumed practicing, which indicates that the fractured bone is healed. The question is, how strong is his grip? If he is still unable to hang onto his stick, he won’t be able to play. This may be the reason Datsyuk will not return to the ice Wednesday as expected. Hopefully the extra couple days will allow him to play Friday.
Detroit teammate Tomas Holmstrom is in a similar situation, but he is dealing with a broken hand. Holmstrom is unable to hold a stick and is still experiencing some pain, and he was unable to take part in practice Monday. The break may not be healing well, but there could be another reason for the pain. Once the pain issue is resolved, the rehab will focus on mobility and finally strength. The Red Wings won’t expect Holmstrom to blast 105-mph slap shots, but he will need to regain the strength to at least shoot without pain. Holmstrom remains day-to-day for the time being.
Finger injuries aren’t as serious as hand injuries, but the broken finger suffered by Atlanta’s Tobias Enstrom is still a tough blow. One is unable to grip anything with a broken finger until it heals. Fingers tend to heal quickly, but Enstrom is still looking at missing about 2-to-4 weeks. Fortunately Enstrom is still able to skate, so he won’t lose his endurance while recovering. He may even be allowed to practice with the team in certain drills. Sometimes, depending on the location of the fracture, a splint can be used so that the finger is stable enough for the player to practice. Expect Enstrom back on the ice around mid-February.
Vancouver’s Alexander Edler recently underwent back surgery and will be out 8-to-10 weeks. This is not a complicated procedure; but like many back surgeries, the recovery can be time consuming since the rehab is complicated. First, the back needs to heal. I have seen rehab start as soon as four weeks post-op, but this is very dependent on the patient. Then, rehab focuses on trunk/spinal stability and re-training the back muscles. Sometimes, if there is pain post-surgery, the back muscles may atrophy and delay recovery. Attention also needs to be paid to the spine to make sure it is not too rigid after the procedure. There is a small chance Edler returns before the playoffs, but that will depend on the success of his recovery.
Now, let’s move on to the leg injuries. Nashville’s Marek Svatos underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in late January and was expected to miss two weeks. This is feasible, but it may also end up being too quick. I have seen instances where a patient has more pain and swelling than expected and has difficulty moving for a week or so. I underwent the same procedure myself, and I had difficulty bending the knee for about a week and a half due to the pain and swelling. The body’s reaction to surgery is individually based, so I would expect him to take more about 3-to-4 weeks to fully recover from the surgery. Still, hopefully Svatos comes back sooner. I love being wrong in this type of situation.
Detroit’s Daniel Cleary, who suffered a fractured ankle in December, has resumed skating. Cleary was even able to take part in practice both before and after the break. Cleary is still experiencing some pain, but he hopes to return Wednesday barring any setbacks. The Red Wings will have to activate Cleary from IR before he can play, so be sure to monitor the transaction wires to find out when he is set to return.
Lastly, New Jersey’s Matt Taormina finally decided to undergo surgery last week to repair the non-displaced fracture in his ankle. Taormina will be out at least a few more weeks, but that will depend on how fast he recovers. Once the bone heals and the ligaments are allowed to heal, he will be cleared to start the rehab process. Given the trouble Taormina has already experienced with the ankle, expect him to return later rather than sooner.